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27 – The first known girl rock band of India

My mother Anupa Nathaniel (right) with her closest friend Shalini Gupta, Delhi, Circa 1962

Image and Text contributed by Anisha Jacob Sachdev, New Delhi.

This picture with my mother Anupa Jacob (nee Nathaniel) and her closest friend Shalini was taken when they were in school at Convent of Jesus & Mary in Delhi. They would have been around 15 years old. My mother was a Rajasthani, from the small town of Nasirabad near Ajmer. Her father was orphaned when a plague hit the village, he and many others were then adopted by the British. Everyone adopted was converted to Christianity and given the last name ‘Nathaniel’. From Nathu Singh, my grandfather became Fazal Masih Nathaniel. He went on to become the Head of the English Language Department at Mayo College, Ajmer.

My mother married my father Philip Jacob, in 1968. He is a Syrian Christian  - whom she met while she was studying at school around the age of 15, he was studying at St. Columba’s School.

One of the most interesting parts of my mother’s life was that Shalini, some other friends and she, formed the first ever Delhi University‘s Girl Rock Band called “Mad Hatter” in their 1st year of college at Miranda House. My mother was the lead guitarist and singer. Because of that status, when the Beatles performed, albeit privately in Delhi in 1966, the Mad Hatters were given front seats priority.

My mother had four kids. She was also a piano teacher, and her youngest child and my youngest sister Arunima is autistic but an ace piano player and has performed Beethoven Music pieces with complete accuracy.

My mother suffered a cardiac arrest in 1982, and passed away in 1986. Shalini Gupta, my mother’s friend in the photograph (left) is now a psychologist in London.

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Responses (29)

  1. Vinita says:

    I studied in CJM too and my brothers in St. Columba’s. There was another band of CJM students who called themselves ‘The Andrew Sisters.’ The band was made up of twin sisters and their older sibling whose name I do not remember. Their brother was Raja Andrews, who had his own beat group. Their mother was a teacher in CJM who taught me history – I loved her classes! Their father was in the Indian Air force.

    This was around 1969-70. My father was in the Army and we left Delhi in 1970.

    I was intrigued by your story. Your mother passed away too young.

  2. Manoj Nair says:

    Hi Anisha,

    I am working on a book along with a friend on the history of Indian rock for Harper Collins. Would you be able to provide contact details of Shalini Gupta so that we could get in touch with her for an interview.

    Thanks
    Manoj

  3. Mathew T. George says:

    The surname Masih is an Indianised version of the word Messiah. Syrian Christians in Kerala refer to Jesus, the Messiah, as Yesu Masiha.

  4. Craig Williams says:

    This is great! Are there any recordings in existence?

  5. Ana says:

    Hi Anisha,

    I came upon this quite by chance, thanks to facebook. This is a wonderful piece of CJM history and very precious because I’m a CJM-ite too. Ofcourse, generations younger than your lovely mother. I passed out in 1993. But, one thing this proves beyond doubt, is that we CJM-ites always knew and still know how to ‘rock it’ and how! You must be so proud and thank you for sharing this. It makes me very proud for being a daughter of the House of CJM…as we were referred. Cheers, Anamika

  6. [...] stories about India’s first known girls’s rock band ( ) to Anglo Indian men who transported millions of refugees to safety , from the Miss India [...]

  7. Vandana says:

    What a wonderful story. This such a great project and I am now reading as many stories I can before I begin sharing my own.
    I will share this with my husband’s aunt Sulakshana Gupta, aged 80, who taught Maths at Miranada House all her working life.

  8. Chetan Soni says:

    She is so beautiful….

  9. I so enjoyed reading this personal unique family reminiscence from India. My family came (5 generations back) from a town called Umzinto (in Zulu, Mzinto, “place of things” or the place where manufacture takes place).They were Natal colonials. My grandfather referred to England as “home” though he had never been there, nor his father before him! My grandfather, I recall, always used to say, when going from the farm to the local shop, “I’m going down to The Syrian”, but it was only recently that I discovered about Syrian business people going all over the world.Umzinto has a considerable population of people of Indian descent and is a lively town with a very wide main street and houses rambling up the hillside. My South African anceastors are all buried in the Anglican Churchyard there. Not long ago one of my young customers(I am a bookseller) here in Johannesburg, Yateen, who is in the theatre world, as is my son Nicholas or Pule,(a multilingual stand-up comedian),turned out to be an Umzinto lad, his father’s surgery being adjacent to the churchyard. In January 2012 my son and I took a nostalgic journey to the area which he had never seen.

  10. vinita says:

    Wow. didn’t know we had an all girls band back then in Delhi …about being the first in India ..can’t say for sure… There was an all girls band in 1968 in Shillong and maybe earlier too but unfortunately my dad didn’t take any pictures though he had recorded the concert in which they were playing at Don Bosco High School Shillong on on his old philips spool type tape recorder

    • admin says:

      Thank you Vinita, which is why it’s called the “First Known” band in India. Not “The First”. If we can find proof of another, the post will stand corrected. A Memory is like that, but someone has got to first remember them and then have some kind of evidence? this band is also 1966 and you mention a band in 1968.. Having said that I would not be surprised that the North East was way ahead in the arena of gumption with music, as it has been. But we must find out. :)

  11. Renu says:

    Hi Aneeshao, this is a fascinating story… two instant connects are Mayo College Ajmer,( was born there and have my extended family there), and Miranda House whose alumnus I am..

  12. Pradip Sarkar says:

    Any chance of listening to the music they made (live recording of a performance, old footage, demo of cassette)?

    • admin says:

      Hi Pradip, we are trying to see if there are any still in existence, but Anisha, the contributor of this post doubts there are any.

  13. Asad Zaidi says:

    Brilliant! My wife would be thrilled to hear this story too as she is from the same school! :)

  14. wingedream says:

    interesting,intimate and innocent.enjoyed reading it..

  15. narayan says:

    Your tidbit about the name Nathaniel fascinates me; have you seen any documentary evidence of the practice? In more than a few books I have read that the British, among other follies, preferred Muslims and Sikhs over all others – a quaint kinship among monotheists perhaps, and warlike people too in their mind. So it doesn’t surprise me that your grandfather’s name was changed from Nathu Singh (most likely Hindu, given Rajasthan) to Fazal Masih (very Muslim).

    • SHa19930 says:

      “the British, among other follies, preferred Muslims and Sikhs over all others – a quaint kinship among monotheists perhaps, and warlike people too in their mind.”

      How particularly narrow-minded and deplorably quaint of you, sir. Rather foolish and ignorant generalisation in response to what is a wonderful story of a Rajasthani family.

    • Asad Zaidi says:

      Actually you are right somewhat about Fazal Masih, but Jesus Christ was also known as Isah Masih in Arabic. Btw, my father’s name is Masih as well.

  16. S Gautham says:

    Hi,

    This is such a fantastic endeavour. Hats off. I am writing because I am researching a new documentary idea for the french TV channel Arte. The idea is to tell the recent history of India, through the lived experience of 3 generations of a delhi based family. We would like the current generation of the family to be enterpreneurs, a symbol of the new india growth story. We are looking for volunteers who can write us at [email protected] or visit our facebook page http://www.facebook.com/pages/Indian-Family/127602833983733?sk=wall

    looking forward to many responses,

    thanks

    Gautham

  17. GP says:

    Lovely picture, and what a story to accompany it! Thanks Anisha.

    Mad Hatters FTW!!

  18. Zara says:

    What a great story, and what an absolutely gorgeous picture. Love that these demure women were in reality rockers! Haha. Thanks for sharing Anisha.

  19. poonam kapur says:

    very touching and educating too! considering that even then,music and bands were a part of life.alongwith it all,the family connections you have mentioned are so amazing…

  20. sonali says:

    Its an wonderful phase of 60′s shared with all of us.thanks! enjoyed a quick peek….

  21. vipin says:

    Beautiful picture. Thanks for sharing it with us. Also, thanks for bits of history of your family. History makes this picture even more beautiful. Dont you have pictures of your mother’s band ? Would love to see them also !

  22. ithening says:

    absolutely fascinating!

  23. Ch J Satyananda Kumar says:

    I was quite amazed to note that Mrs Anupa Nathaniel Jacob hailed from Ajmer, Rajasthan where even now the Christians are a minuscule minority and I thank God for her talents in Music. The photo reveals the innocence, gait, beauty and confidence in the then teen aged ladies. It is a tragedy that such a talented lady like Mrs Anupa died of heart attack. I am quite delighted to know about the talents of Arunima who has mastered music despite her biological setbacks. What is she doing now? I pray God to protect and bless this wonderful family.

    John Satyananda Kumar
    Visakhapatnam, AP

  24. Joshua says:

    An absolute ripper of a story this! I’m so pumped doing a writeup an my family roots and this inspires a great deal! Never in my wildest dreams would i have imagined an Indian Girl Rock Band in the 60′s! God bless you and your family.

    cheers,
    Joshua.

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